Q&A: Emma Teodoro, CAI-STA
Emma Teodoro is the president of CAI-STA, a Philippines-based service provider delivering services to global clients in a wide range of verticals. Outsource spoke with Emma about her business, the advantages and challenges facing providers in the Philippines, and what advice she’d give to organisations looking to do business in her corner of the world…
Outsource: Emma, thanks for joining Outsource today. Can we begin with a bit of background? Tell us about CAI-STA: what are the company’s origins and what is the current scope of your activities?
Emma Teodoro: CAI-STA is a joint venture between Computer Aid Inc. (CAI), a US-based IT professional services company and SoftTech Advantage, Inc. (STA), a Philippine-based IT solution company. CAI-STA serves as the offshore delivery centre of CAI and other clients. CAI-STA follows CAI’s methodologies, metrics and tools to improve management control of the IT function and to provide the foundation for continuous process and quality improvement. These methodologies are aligned with standard industry models like ITIL, CMMI and Six Sigma and were honed through learned best practices. A commitment to process enables CAI-STA to consistently guarantee quality deliverables. Our delivery has been proven to be reliable, predictable and dependable.
Our core competencies include (among others): application support; application development; managed staffing services; desktop services; BPO services; Vericenter (CAI’s Vericenter offers enterprise-wide testing, quality assurance, and complex integration services); knowledge capture; business and IT management consulting; and staff augmentation.
O: Who are your typical clients – and is this changing as your business grows and evolves?
ET: For over 30 years, we have experienced continuous year-over-year growth. Today the company is comprised of more than 2,500 professionals. CAI has offices throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region, and industry expertise in government, manufacturing, insurance, utilities, hospitality, logistics, financial services, and pharmaceuticals.
CAI maintains several Solution Centers to provide customers with the “virtual capacity” to quickly respond to development and maintenance requirements. An entire project team can be located at one or more Solution Center in the United States; Manila, Philippines; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Shanghai, China. We also maintain partnerships with firms in Mumbai, India and Vietnam to further supplement CAI teams and take advantage of lower-cost resources.
O: What do you see as being your organisation’s biggest assets?
ET: Our biggest assets are our people and our Intellectual Property Rights. Projects are delivered using CAI’s methodologies for application development (Construction Management), support (Managed Maintenance) and application knowledge capture (AKP). Day-to-day management of each project ensures there are no unexpected results. Utilising CAI’s proprietary tool, Tracer®, metrics and performance data are captured and reported to ensure that project is completed on time, within budget, and at high quality. With Advanced Management Insight (AMI®), potential problems are anticipated and corresponding resolution implemented.
O: What have your biggest challenges up to now and how have you overcome them?
ET: We understand that clients partner with us to achieve: a value-based, defined and measurable solution – not just billable hours; improved IT productivity in order to do more with less; management control which includes service level and scope management to ensure consistent, high-quality outcomes; high business-user satisfaction through increased visibility and quantifiable results.
To consistently achieve these objectives mean we have to constantly save, improve our effectiveness, never to compromise credibility, reduce risk and utilise IT resources better!
O: How did your business react to the financial crisis and what were the main lessons you as a business leader have taken from that period?
ET: Even during the financial crisis, our business remained profitable. In fact, we have always been profitable every single year. We have very good fiscal policies and our management is quite conservative while forward looking. With our size and flexibility, we are very agile in responding to the situations of our clients.
O: What are the main pros and cons of operating in the Philippines and how have you structured your business with these in mind?
ET: There have been many studies regarding the pros and cons of doing business in certain locations, the Philippines being one of them. Right now, the Philippines is a favourite destination for BPO location because of the quality and quantity of our people. In addition to this, we have very good infrastructure both for space and telecommunications which are very important factors in our business. We also have a great pool of managers who are quite sophisticated and well versed in implementing standards and processes.
One of the problems is increasing cost of manpower and operations while clients are cost-cutting.
O: How fierce is competition for talent in the Philippines at the moment? Do you see this changing over the next few years?
ET: Now that the economy is picking up again, the demand for talent has likewise increased. Companies have to respond to this challenge by improving recruitment and training of resources. Fortunately in the Philippines, the supply coming from our educational institutions continue to grow every year. The challenge has been in providing the right training that will respond to market needs.
O: What will be the main drivers for change impacting upon your business specifically, and the Filipino contact centre market generally, over the next few years?
ET: Cost and availability of qualified people will continue to make companies become more innovative. We are constantly looking at reducing costs by 25 – 30% while maintaining or even improving our service delivery.
O: What advice would you give a potential client from either the US or Europe looking to do business with or in the Philippines?
ET: Anywhere a business locates, its success is directed by management who cultivate the company’s style and culture and defines project processes. Many companies in the Philippines are hierarchical and paternalistic. It is common for employees to look up to authority and they are happy when recognised for their hard work and achievements. We have company socials, outings, awards ceremonies, and various team-building activities. We have a very personalised approach to the management of people.
O: What are your ambitions for the next few years?
ET: We would like to double the company in the next few years. We would like to do this with the help of partners around the world.
O: What’s the secret of success in outsourcing?
ET: We operate on the belief that regardless of industry or size, customers are looking for outsourcing solutions that result in reduced cost, reduced risk, improved business alignment, and increased capacity. Each of our offerings allows our customers to increase shareholder value and improve end-user satisfaction. We enable customers to concentrate on their core competencies while preserving control of their main business.